Ruthie Foster enjoys challenges and rewards of making music
March 29, 2016
Nearly 20 years ago, blues and folk artist Ruthie Foster released her debut album "Full Circle," and never looked back.
Since then, she has released eight additional albums and has worked with an array of artists, from the Blind Boys of Alabama to the Allman Brothers Band and Susan Tedeschi.
Foster has also garnered a series of awards and nominations including a Best Blues Album Grammy nomination for her 2012 release "Let It Burn" and four wins out of six nominations for the Koko Taylor Award.
Not bad for a girl who fell in love with singing in a rural Texas church choir.
Park City will have the opportunity to see Foster when the Park City Institute presents her at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, April 2.
For the past month, Foster has been on an international tour and The Park Record caught up with her in the Netherlands, via email.
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Park Record: [While] your family were your earliest and probably the strongest musical influences in your life, was there any time in your life when you didn’t think about playing music for a living?
Ruthie Foster: I joined the Navy after college to get away from music and for the first year worked around helicopters, but I was quickly drawn back to music after just a year and was accepted into the Navy Band.
P.R.: Was it a challenge or did you feel any pressure going into music because of your family’s expectations?
R.F.: There was no pressure. My family was supportive of all my choices for work. Like most people I’ve had lots of odd jobs to pay the bills, but they were just odd jobs to pay the bills, not a career. I even worked at Walmart for one day.
P.R.: What were your original goals and ideas for your own original music?
R.F.: I think I just wanted to make a living making music that touched people, like I am touched by it.
P.R.: Looking back on nearly 20 years since "Full Circle" was released, have those goals and ideas changed?
R.F.: Not really. I’m blessed to make a living doing what I love and hopefully touching people along the way.
P.R.: Throughout your career, many people have worked with you, including Meshell Ndegeocello (who produced Foster’s 2014 album "Promise of a Brand New Day"), as well as Doyle Bramhall II, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Conspirare, Papa Mali, Chris Goldsmith, the Allman Brothers — How have they and other artists inspired your musical outlook and approach?
R.F.: In Meshell’s case, she opened up the studio for me to just sing, it was a very different way of recording that I really enjoyed. She’s such an amazing artist and knew when I needed a break or just to get water.
P.R.: What do you enjoy most about making records?
R.F.: Honestly up until recently what I loved most about making records was finishing! But it’s really about watching how my fans react and the joy of turning new fans on to my music.
P.R.: From the mid 2000s, you have garnered a string of nominations and awards, including your sixth Koko Taylor Award nomination. What does that recognition mean to you?
R.F.: It’s a huge honor to be recognized by my peers in the industry as worthy of even the nomination of these awards. I’ve been to the Grammys three times now, and even though I’ve never won, it really has been an amazing experience.
P.R.: Were those accolades even in the equation when you began your music career?
R.F.: I really don’t think I gave any of that much thought.
P.R.: Looking down the road, what is the next step for you and what would you eventually like to attain through your music?
R.F.: I’d like to be content with and leave a positive legacy in my body of work; God willing I’ll be here long enough to write and choose songs that continue to challenge me to do that.
P.R.: What do you enjoy most about performing live?
R.F.: Our live show is where we get to relax and be ourselves! Much of our days on the road are spent traveling and when we finally get to the performance, we can just be ourselves and let the music come through us!
The Park City Institute will present multi-Blues Music Award winner Ruthie Foster at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., on Saturday, April 2, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $25 to $75 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.ecclescenter.org .